A human resources department in New Delhi, India has recently gone under fire for their use of the popular instant messaging platform, WhatsApp. In the past year, WhatsApp has rolled outend to end encryption in the latest version of the app. With this type of encryption, all data transferred on the app – including video, photo, documents, and calls – are secured with encryption.
This encryption has emboldened some employees to take up sensitive chats and transfers over the app instead of using the appropriate channels. Many companies simply feel like the encryption by WhatsApp isn’t secure enough, with many fearing that they may lose sensitive data to potential third parties and eavesdroppers. WhatsApp is also impeding on office culture, with many employees feeling that they need to respond immediately since WhatsApp will notify those in a chatroom if a message has been opened and read.
All Encryption Algorithms Aren’t The Same
In the past year, the importance of online privacy has been catapulted onto the national stage, especially with the case between Apple and the FBI. Many employees and consumers believe in the false narrative that their sent text messages and media messages are totally private – this is inaccurate. When you send a text message, the message is sent to your mobile provider, stored on its server, and then almost instantaneously transferred to the person that you meant to send the text to. From beginning to end, the text’s characters are shown, which means that anyone could read it. Even though most cell phone providers are ardent about customer privacy, there’s still the off-chance that a warrant, government seizure, or a hack can potentially expose your sensitive information to the world.
WhatsApp end to end encryption is a bit different. In this type of encryption, the characters in your text and sent media are encrypted from sender, through the server, to receiver. The message is still fully encrypted even when stored in a mobile provider’s server.
However, There Is a Glaring Limitation
Once a phone is stolen, sensitive company information is compromised. For those with the right skills and tools, unlocking and data mining a phone is a relatively straightforward process – and there goes sensitive information about a company’s financials, practices, and customers.
Encryption is still a mainstay in many industries, especially in human resources where sensitive information is constantly being circulated. For example, encryption still has its place on a business intranet or online hubs that post documents from the human resources department. Even though apps like WhatsApp may be convenient, it’s glaring limitations does not have its place in a business setting.